As a result of feedback from members we have revamped our Half Year Meetings. As well as learning more about the Society and being able to question the Board and Executive on our performance, Members can now take part in interactive discussions on topical themes relevant to their local community. At the recent Half Year Meetings the themes were:
Swindon – local challenges around the national skills shortage in partnership with Swindon College.
Gloucester – the challenges facing vulnerable teenagers and young adults in partnership with Gloucester Young Carers.
Shrewsbury – a social media masterclass for members.
Kidderminster – local sourcing and food provenance supported by Best of Our Counties suppliers.
Walsall – the role of business in community outreach programmes in partnership with Street Teams.
Oxford – the challenges of social inclusion in employment in partnership with Aspire Oxford and Mind.
At Swindon we discussed the role of apprenticeships, ranging from work experience to a Master’s Degree, and the Government’s apprenticeship levy, in conjunction with Hawk Training and PTP Training. Richard Giddings, apprenticeship manager at Midcounties, said: ‘We are pleased with the result of our apprenticeship strategy, offering apprenticeships at all levels including MBAs. We already provide supported internships and will be expanding these in the future. However, at the meeting we were challenged by our members to put in place more support to help vulnerable young people. We will be looking at ways of doing this.’
At Gloucester the challenges currently facing vulnerable young people were also discussed in co-operation with our charity partner Gloucestershire Young Carers and Beaufort Academy in Tuffley.
Held on World Mental Health day, the meeting heard the moving story of a teenager called Kieran, who has been looking after his ill mother on his own since he was five. As a result he has struggled to cope and got into trouble at school but on leaving found employment thanks to the support team at Gloucestershire Young Carers.
As well as fundraising for the charity, Midcounties also provides employment opportunities in its stores. ‘To help vulnerable young people get back into employment we offer a placement so they can gain new skills and boost their confidence. We also offer help and support with online recruitment,’ said Gail Moss, Midcounties’ head of human resources.
At Shrewsbury we held a social media masterclass for our community partners and members. Our experts explained in detail how simple tools such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to target specific demographics or people with common interests.
The session was well received by our community partners, who said they would find it particularly useful in helping them to expand their networks.
At Kidderminster we discussed the great partnerships we have formed with the local produce suppliers like Mudwalls, as part of our Best of Our Counties range and the need to educate young people about where their food comes from and how to cook it.
‘One of the challenges raised by our members was to work more closely with our suppliers to reduce our environmental impact,’ said Matt Fletcher, Midcounties direct sourcing manager. ‘As a result we have worked with Mudwalls on a 100% biodegradable fruit punnet made from sugar. Initiatives like this will help us cut down on single-use plastics in our food operation.’
KEEPING IT LOCAL
At Walsall our local charity partner Street Teams talked to members about the vital work it does with vulnerable children. Street Teams’ aim is to ensure all young people are free from exploitation. The meeting discussed the role that everyone can play in keeping them safe and looking for the signs of neglect, grooming and child trafficking.
At Oxford we discussed getting vulnerable and homeless adults back into employment with our charity partner Aspire Oxford and mental health charity Mind. Average house prices in Oxford are 16 times average salaries. We heard how Aspire and Mind help over 1,000 homeless people a year back into learning and work.
The Half Year Meetings have helped to connect members by showing co-operative solutions to community issues, and discussing their Society’s performance with managers and elected members.